It’s Monday! It’s August! We’re about a month away from rookies reporting for training camp on Sept. 15, at which point actual, real-life hockey talk can commence once more. In the meantime, all we can do is wait, anticipate, and chat about possibilities!
To the mailbag, friends!
For CBA nerds like me, the whole Jack Eichel dispute with the Buffalo Sabres has been utterly fascinating. For those who aren’t following all the drama, here’s the gist of it:
  • Eichel has a neck injury that he’s tried to rehab, but apparently rehabbing it hasn’t fixed the problem.
  • Under the CBA, the Sabres have the responsibility to have their medical staff examine Eichel’s injury and recommend a course of action. Because Eichel is under contract to the Sabres, he has to let them make a recommendation.
  • In the CBA extension that was negotiated last summer, players have expanded rights in terms of seeking out a second medical opinion. That said, if there’s no consensus regarding treatment between the team doctor and the second opinion, the tie-breaker is a third (independent) doctor that the team pays for.
  • In theory, the Sabres could suspend Eichel if he went against (their) doctor’s orders and got a different surgery on his own. But it’s also likely that the NHLPA would step in and there would be some kind of mediation or arbitration. (It would open a big can of worms that would disrupt much of the labour peace the NHL and the players have enjoyed recently.)
I tend to lean towards pulled pork, but there’s really no “bad” protein to use in a taco. Tacos are amazing.
Vaccine status for players is something that’s subject to the NHL’s collective bargaining. It’s doubtful that the NHL imposes vaccine mandates on its players, but it’ll probably just set up rules that’ll make players’ lives much easier if they do get vaccinated. (Over at The Athletic, their reporting suggests that’s where things are starting to lean from the league offices.)
For staff, the NHL is able to mandate things unilaterally – albeit with input from the clubs – and the current direction appears to be that anyone who needs to be within 12 feet of players or hockey operations personnel to do their jobs must be vaccinated. (That’s via Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.)
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For fans, it’ll probably depend on what the rest of the league is doing, what the other Canadian jurisdictions are doing, and what the Edmonton Oilers end up doing. There haven’t been any pronouncements from the Flames organization one way or the other, and what ended up happening during the run-up towards the 2020 bubble playoffs and the 2020-21 regular season was a lot of teams, the Flames included, playing wait and see (since a lot of things could change variant-wise in the interim). I suspect we’ll see something similar as there’s still well over a month before pre-season games – in theory, with fans in attendance – get underway.
I mentioned it on Sportsnet 960 The Fan last week and on FlamesNation Live recently, I think the Flames go out and try to sign another right shot defenseman for the third pairing. It could be Michael Stone. It could be Sami Vatanen. But someone reliable and consistent for the third pairing to play with Juuso Valimaki would be a smart add, and likely wouldn’t be too expensive, either.
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Other than that? I think they go to camp with the group they have right now.
I think Sean Monahan is in the lineup on opening night. Considering he’s been playing hurt since, well, forever, teams may be a bit nervous about acquiring him because they’re not sure how much of his dip in performance was his body being a giant bruise and how much was him being bad at hockey. (Spoiler: he’s not bad at hockey, but if you’re trying to figure out his market value in a trade, you want to know what you’re buying and it’s tough to suss that out right now.)
If he has a good start to the season, he could definitely be on the move if the price is right and the Flames think they can upgrade the team by moving him.
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Out of camp, Johannes Kinnvall likely has a very low chance of making the team. He’s coming over from Sweden and his defensive game, even over there, wasn’t amazing. But he’s a superb power play weapon and if he can shore up his play away from the puck, he could be a nice piece of the puzzle. But he probably needs a year in the AHL to learn the smaller ice and the different style of play in North America.
Honestly, it depends if they sign another NHL regular this off-season. Oliver Kylington is, at worst, a good seventh defender because he can play both sides of the ice and skates really well. But Juuso Valimaki and Connor Mackey are both likely ahead of him in the pecking order, so the road to NHL utilization for Kylington is probably on the right side and also probably dependent on somebody ahead of him in the pecking order getting hurt or slumping.
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Barring anything wacky happening, Dan Vladar is the Flames’ backup goalie. He’s young, he’s cheap, and the goaltending development staff thinks very highly of him. He’s played five NHL games and has an .886 save percentage in limited duty, but his AHL work is what has the Flames excited: a .917 save percentage in 78 appearances – for comparison’s sake, David Rittich had a .914 AHL save percentage. He’s done well enough in the AHL to earn a shot at NHL work.
If I had to put a number on it, I’d say there’s a 65% chance of him re-signing before opening night.

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